- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday that if he wins Thursday’s general election, he will put many in the current government on trial for embezzlement and crimes against humanity.

“I will have the keys,” he told a cheering crowd of 25,000 in the capital, Harare, “and I will throw them away.”

Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses President Robert Mugabe’s government of having stolen billions of dollars during its 25 years in power and of killing thousands of civilians.

But the party faces an uphill battle Thursday. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which will oversee the balloting, is appointed by Mr. Mugabe and has refused to supply an electronic version of the voter roll to the opposition. Registration officially closed Feb. 4, yet in the past four weeks, the roll has grown by more than 100,000 names.

The MDC says it has the software to check duplications on the roll, which is stored on two CD-ROMs, but the government will supply only paper printouts.

Using these, the opposition conducted a door-to-door survey of one Harare electorate to find that 64 percent of those on the list were not known at the given addresses.

Some analysts think as many as 1.1 million names of dead or exiled voters may have been put on the roll, allowing soldiers and party workers loyal to Mr. Mugabe to vote in their place.

Most international observers have been barred from the country for the elections, so there will be no independent monitoring of the process.

Even so, Mr. Tsvangirai sounded a confident note at weekend rallies across the country.

“The world used to say that Zimbabweans are too passive and cannot remove Mugabe,” he told one meeting. “Well, we are going to remove him. Go and vote for food, vote for jobs, go and vote for hope and for a future.”

Mr. Mugabe and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front, or ZANU (PF) , have steered away from any promises, blaming the country’s ills on Britain and the United States which, they say, are trying to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mugabe was returned to power in a presidential election in 2002 that the United States and other Western countries refused to recognize because observers reported widespread fraud and intimidation.

Under Mr. Mugabe’s rule, unemployment has risen to 90 percent, inflation is the highest in the world, and a troubled land-reform program has led to the collapse of the farm sector and widespread hunger.

But if Mr. Tsvangirai does get the chance to investigate past offenses, it will be the massacres of the mid-1980s that could see the president and some of his closest colleagues tried for war crimes.

From 1984 to 1987, a special military unit was sent to the southern province of Matabeleland, where they purportedly slew more than 20,000 of Mr. Mugabe’s opponents.

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